Peter Cornish experiences the epitome of “the kettle’s always on” British hospitality with authentic chippy fare. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
There are certain foods that evoke strong feelings of cultural identity and tradition — Vietnam’s pho, an American burger or an Italian pizza. For much of the English-speaking world, especially those who speak proper English like the Queen, the food that gets many of us going is a slap-up plate of fish ‘n’ chips, lashings of Sarson’s vinegar, a pickled egg and a side of mushy peas.
Jack’s Fish & Chips is a tribute to this traditional British fare that harks back to the childhood of owner Matt Ryan, who grew up on the A30 road from London. Matt’s local chippy was called Jack’s Fish & Chips. An institution of over 40 years, Jack’s served up battered cod and haddock accompanied by thickly-sliced chips hot out the fryer. Proper chips. Fluffy in the middle with a crisp outside, covered in malt vinegar and served in sheets of newspaper.
News that his hometown chippy had closed brought back fond memories and spurred Matt’s desire to pick up the mantle dropped by JJ’s and introduce his own interpretation of Britain’s oldest and most famous dish to Ho Chi Minh City.
Union Jack’s reminds the British of a home-away-from-home while introducing others to the sights and smells of a traditional English chippy. With the experienced guidance of Chef Josh Mcgechaen, they offer the hungry of Saigon a new taste of fish and chips, cooked in beef dripping for an even tastier, crisper slice of battered fish, just like Jack did back in England.
Locals lean towards battered fresh snapper (VND170,000 with chips and a choice of sauce), a soft, moist fish that pulls apart lightly, caught locally and from sea to plate in just a few hours. Expats prefer the meatier cod option (VND240,000 with chips and sauce) that gives them the real “taste of home”. Accompanying sauce are made in-house from fresh, locally sourced ingredients and include Josh’s curry sauce, tartar and a meaty gravy. Of course, there’s Sarson’s vinegar, Helmann’s mayonnaise, HP Sauce and Branston pickle too, just as you’d get back home.
As well as fish there’s also some oink, and Josh brings his specials from Pot Belly Pig including the renowned black pudding (VND50,000). Fryday Friday offers a free battered black pudding with every fish meal. There are sausage rolls on the menu (VND140,000 with chips), flaky pastry covering a sausage packed with flavour, and pies (VND110,000) of richly herbed minced pork wrapped in crunch pastry for a memorable, full-bodied flavour, served with a choice of egg, onion or cucumber pickles. A beef and ale stew (VND140,000 with bread), made with local craft beer and chunks of beef soaking in a rich, meaty gravy with heavy hints of rosemary, tastes better than anything Mum ever made and a hit with locals and expats alike.
Opening for lunch after Tet they currently deliver to Districts 1, 3, 4, 5 and Binh Thanh and aim to be at your door within 40 minutes from order. If you fancy a taste of tradition, get down and give this a try.